The Complete On-Page SEO Guide

By August 16, 2014 Blog, Guides No Comments
featuredonpageseo

Take a look at some of your favorite SEO blogs and services providers. A little bit of poking around should make one thing all the more evident.

Far too little attention is paid to on-page SEO. 

Which is a shame, because it is just as important as off-site factors. The truth is that you just simply can’t rank without a proper on-site structure.

So What Is On-Page Optimization?

On page optmization is the process of making your website easily crawlable by search engines, and providing a straightforward and informative experience to your users. On-page optimization covers all facets of your website – its content, the structure of its URLs, its optmization across multiple browsers and devices, its load speeds, its navigation, etc. There are many components of a perfectly optmized website.

 

Best On-Page Optimization Tools

Website Auditor (FREE TRIAL) – Extremely Feature-Rich. Automates many different marketing tasks that would otherwise have to be completed by hand.

What This Guide Will Teach You:

  • How To Create Content with Search Engine AND Users in Mind. The reality is that quality content inherently checks off both. Quality, in-depth content will meet the needs of search engines without sacrificing readability.
  • Every Best On-Page Practice. There are probably more than you think. Some are more important than others. Many are focused on the users. Google looks for certain practices that makes content accessible across multiple browsers, devices and platforms.
  • How to properly structure your website. It isn’t all just about SEO-friendly URLs. There are many things that can be done to improve your on-page SEO and general usability.

Things to Remember Before Beginning/Best Practices

There are a few things that you need to know before starting out – or else you’ll drive yourself mad trying to get everything perfect.

  • On-Page SEO is an ongoing process, it is not something that is completed in a day Whether you already have hundreds off pages on your website or are just starting out – take it slow. Focus on over-arching concepts that affect your whole site first, then take it one page at a time.
  • The most important aspect of on-page optimization is content. Without content, you have nothing. Everything else can be effectively completed with plugins (for CMS users) or with very minimal amounts of manual elbow grease.
  • Think of the visitor first. Don’t add things to your site that inhibit the users experience just because you think it will improve SEO. Try to create the best overall environment for your user, first.

For the purpose of keeping this guide simple, I will splitting the guide into sections – Content, Site Structure, and Advanced Concepts. Elements of both go hand in hand, and certain aspect of on-page SEO belong in both categories.

So, with that in mind, let’s get into the specifics.

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Content Optimization

icons_mobile_2012Content optimization is the most key component of on-page SEO. Without properly formulated content, your chances of ranking are…well… slim. Google’s goal is to create an experience that is great for their users. This brings users to their search engine, and in turn increases their ad revenue. Your goal should be to provide the best possible content that you can within your niche. Some of hte proper components of content optimization include;

Create Quality, Long, Unique Content

The best thing that you can do on your website to improve your chances of ranking is to take a good, long, hard look at your content. Compare it to the content that is provided by your competitors.

What is it that makes your own content unique?

How do you go above and beyond the content that has been provided by your competition?

Content Quality

Your goal should always be to become the best information source within your niche for the keywords that you are targeting. Of course, search users can be in different stages of the process. They might be information gathering. They might be in buying mode. They might be discount searching. It is important that you determine the intent of users that search particular keywords and put together the best possible experience for those needs.

Content Length

Content length has always been a key factor when ranking. In general, longer content is viewed as higher quality in the eyes of Google. You’ll find some SEO experts arguing for shorter content because users are in a hurry (thus, improving the user experience) but I have found that longer, more in-depth content carries more authority.

I try to make sure that each article that I add is at least 1,000 words in total. That would be the minimum that I strive for. This site is a good example. Copy Thrive has several guides that go well beyond the 5,000 word mark, and several that are closer to 10,000 words.

However, your content should adequately cover the subject – no matter how many words it takes. Take a look at the pages that are ranking for the keyword you are targeting, and strive to go above and beyond what they have offered. Where can you improve upon the information that they have provided? What information have they left out of their article, that you could use to bolster your own?

In review, your content should:

  • Be at least 1,000 words long. There are few subjects that can be fully covered in less than 1,000 words. If you find that you can not come up with 1,000 words of quality content, perhaps you are targeting the wrong topics and need to take a broader approach? I’d always opt for a single 6,000 word post than 6 1,000 word posts.
  • Adequately cover the subject matter in full. SEO doesn’t determine the length of your articles. The subject matter should determine the length of your articles.
  • Surpass the competition. Find ways to improve upon what your competition has done. Look at angles that they haven’t examined for a particular subject. Add video where they do not have video. Add infographics and images that illustrate your points in different ways.
  • Be unique. Although “unique content” is less important than most make it out to be (as in, you don’t have to edit your article when you contain a few words or phrases that show up on CopyScape, that is normal for longer pieces of content). Just make sure that you are not directly copying competitors. You want to stand out, after all.

Interlinking Pages

Interlinking pages is vital for proper on-page optimization. It serves a few purposes. It makes your site easily navigable, lowers your bounce rate, and alerts users to other content that they might have an interest in.

Take every opportunity to interlink pages on your website. 

I’ve found that interlinking rarely has a negative effect on rankings – but try not to link to single page more than once or twice per article.

As an example, just look to Wikipedia.

wikipedia

 

Wikipedia certainly isn’t shy about interlinking their pages, are they? And they rank well.

Interlink wherever it provides value to the reader. Whenever you come across a phrase that could potentially link to a page on your website, ask yourself if visiting that page might be in the best interests at that moment? If it is, then go ahead and link away!

Additionally, the anchor text from these links can give Google a better idea of what terms the page is relevant for.

Use Keywords in Page Titles

Always use the phrases that you wish to rank for in the title of your page.

This shows Google that the page is most relevant to that keyword. Keep in mind that this page could rank for many keywords – some of which won’t be included within the title.

The keywords that are contained with the title should be larger, top-level keywords that you are targetting. Ideally, the largest keywords that you could reasonably rank for – depending upon the subject of the article.

Use Keywords in Your H1/H2/H3 Tags

Make sure that your main keyword is also contained within an H1 tag, which is present once on each page – almost always the tits of your article.

It may seem small, but not having your main keyword inside of your H1 tag can really hurt your page’s relevancy. Also contain secondary keywords with H2 tags, as that will help you maintain relevancy for longtail keywords.

Remember that using your keywords in your H1 tag not only makes it clear what your page is about to Google, but to the users that will be landing on your page as well.

Include Multimedia

Einstein Waving

Google loves multimedia rich webpages. Add relevant images, videos, or interactive media to your website for not only a boost in search engine authority, but improve the experience of your users overall.

There are many different types of media that you could potentially add to your articles to give them a little extra oomph;

  • Stock images. Usually not the best choice in my opinion. You’d be better offer creating custom graphics, but stock images are certainly better than no images at all.
  • Create Your Own Images. I recommend creating your own images where they are applicable. If your article contains stats, or information that could be presented well verbally, making your own images can set you apart and add value to the information that you provide.
  • Create Infographics. Infographics are great, not only because you can use them to bolster the value of your article, but you can also upload them on various infographic sharing sites around the net. Be sure to watermark your infographics, so you still get something out of it when other sites use your image but do not link to you.
  • Create Simple Videos. You can create simple videos using Camtasia and Microsoft PowerPoint.

Typically, the more multimedia you include – the better. But, try not to hurt the experience of the users on your website.

Keyword Density

density

If you have done any research on on-page optimization, you have probably seen some blurbs about “keyword density.” Keyword density was a concept that Google introduced to keep webmasters from injecting hundreds of keywords throughout their pages to increase relevancy.

You’ve seen them. The sites with dozens of keywords at the bottom of their articles? They usually look something like this:

Vancouver Roof Fixing | Vancouver Roofers | Vancouver Roofing | Roofing in Vancouver

This is, for the most part, a thing of the past. Keyword injection can actually get your website penalized in a hurry. So I live by one motto:

Be natural about it. 

Use your main keyword where it makes sense throughout the text. Don’t force it.

For those that want a starting point;

Try to keep your main keyword density at or below 5%. 

Whenever I create content, I read through it to make sure it flows naturally. Years ago when I was less about brand building and more into blackhat techniques, I would pay a lot more attention to keyword density. I still pay attention to it when I outsource content, just to make sure that the writer isn’t using older techniques hoping to please me.

LSI Keywords

The term “LSI” refers to latent semantic indexing. This is a process that Google introduced to gauge the relevancy of a given page. In order to determine relevancy, Google looks for keywords that are related to your main keyword.

So if your main keyword is “email marketing,” some LSI keywords might include;

  • email marketing software
  • email marketing service
  • autoresponder email marketing
  • listbuilding

Google looks for related keywords. When a good number of LSI keywords are present, it increases the perceived relevancy of the page.

There are multiple places where you can find relevant LSI keywords to include in your content.

There is the Google Keyword Tool. This is the go-to tool for finding keywords that are relevant in the eyes of Google.

Additionally, the suggested keywords at the bottom of any keyword search can be a useful list of highly relevant subsidiary keywords for your content;

lsi

 

Any of these keywords would be excellent choices to include within your content.

Social Aspects

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If you’ve been around the SEO industry for any extended period of time, you’ve likely heard about how much social media can effect your rankings within the search engines.

For the most part, I think the whole thing is overhyped.

Sure, if you are building a brand – you should try to convince people to follow your social media accounts, and you should try to extend your presence to as many websites as possible.

As far as on-page SEO goes, adding links to your profiles and other social sharing buttons has very little, if any effect on rankings.

Outbound Links

outbound-links

Like many aspects of on-page SEO, outbound links do play a role. Google (Matt Cutts, mostly) has talked about it fairly extensively in his videos.

Like most of my recommendations, I advise you to link to outbound websites whenever it makes sense. Every article you write should have at least one.

Remember that outbound links actively affect the reputation of your website. In essence, an outbound link is a recommendation for your readers. Linking to websites that carry spyware or dabble in nefarious activities reflects badly on your brand as a whole.

When linking to websites, try to find websites that;

  • Are directly related to your subject.
  • Are an authority website.
  • Are someone that you wouldn’t mind being affiliated with.

Make Sure Your Content is ‘Linkable’

Yes, on-page SEO does play a role in linkbuilding.

You want to make sure that your content is linkable to other websites. In general, this means that you wan to avoid including images or content that other websites might be hesitant to link to.

This can include gratuitous profanity and other questionable content.

Mostly – just make sure that you are providing high value in every piece of content that you create. That is what it means to be “linkable.”

Consistently Add New Content

Google wants to direct their users to “active” websites.

Even in niches where the available information hasn’t changed in years – it is in your best interest to find ways to publish new and interesting content for your readers.

Websites that are regularly updated are more authoritative.

Take a look at other websites within your industry and take a look at how often their websites are updated. What kind of content are they adding? Use that as a model for your own ideas.

Image Alt Tags

Try to include alt tags on any of the images that you add to your posts. Not only will this be the text that is displayed if the user is unable to load them – but they are integral for blind users as well.

They don’t play a huge role, but they do help to improve usability of the website, and can help the images to show up on Google Images, which can drive a fair amount of traffic to your website.

Site Structure and Technical Aspects

Content isn’t the only thing that effects on-page SEO. On site is also effected by a number of structural and technical aspects as well. In fact, many of the structural and technical aspects effect your ability to rank just as much as your content does.

In the end – all structural and technical aspects of on-page SEO are aimed to improve the usability of the website. Google looks for certain things because it makes the website easier for users to use.

SEO Friendly URLs

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No one wants to visit a website with a URL like this;

http://www.thedomain.com/pages/news/2323232/239823/23892832.html

That might be a little over the top – but you get the idea. Google values URLs that are easily memorized, or help to give an idea of what a particular page is about. Instead your URLs should look like this;

http://www.thedomain.com/news/industrynews.html

Or even better:

http://www.thedomain.com/thekeyword

Keep things simple. Think about how many pages your website is going to have.

If it isn’t going to have too many pages, do you really need to include categories, topics, or other additives to your URL?

Keep things as simple as possible and you’ll be rewarded for it.

Navigation

Navigation is another important aspect of on-site SEO. Your navigation needs to be easy to see, and take users to the appropriate pages, based on the anchor text of the link.

Try to keep your menu’s simple, and create a simple path to all main pages of your website. As a general rule of thumb, no page on your website should be more than three clicks away from your home page.

Although the Google Bot itself can’t physically look at your navigation – it will check to make sure that a navigation system is present on the page, and in text (not images).

Navigation is important for your users – and that makes it important to Google.

Site Speed

Remember – Google wants to make sure that they are sending their users to quality websites.

They also know that most of their users have a short attention span.

For this reason, Google gives real bonuses to websites that have a fast load time. Fast loading websites are typically hosted on more expensive servers, which is also an indication of the professionalism of the company.

There are multiple tools that can be used to test the speed of your website. I personally use a mixture of GTMetrix and Pingdom – both of which are excellent resources for examining site speed.

Bounce Rate

bouncerate

Another serious consideration is the bounce rate of your website. The equation is used to determine what percentage of your visitors get to your webpage and then quickly leave.

If your bounce rate is 50% – that means that 50% of your users get to your webpage and then quickly leave that web page.

A high bounce rate isn’t always a bad thing. In some niches higher bounce rates are expected.

Google has all of the data they need to know what the bounce rate should be, based on the niche of the website and keywords searched to access the web page.

In the end, your goal should always be to lessen your bounce rate. A low bounce rate means that you are providing exactly what your visitors are looking for. This of course is recorded by Google, and shows them that your website is relevant.

There are multiple strategies that can be used to decrease bounce rate. I wouldn’t recommend attempting to trap users on your web page through some kind of pop-up – but rather try to foster engagement on the page. Give them a reason to stick around.

Bot Accessibility

You absolutely have to make sure that your website is accessible by bots. This is defined by your robots.txt file that is located on your botaccessserver.

I would recommend reading through the materials provided here so that you have a better understanding of what bots are and how they work.

If you want to be indexed, you definitely need to be sure that Google bots are able to access your website.

Sitemaps

Sitemaps are .xml documents (usually located at www.domain.com/sitemap.xml), that allow Google to quickly see all the pages that are present on your website.

Sitemaps provided Google with the pages and some basic information about how often they are updated (how often Google should attempt to crawl the pages).

You can see the CopyThrive sitemap here. I use the Yoast SEO Plugin for WordPress to generate it.

Mobile Devices

Building-Mobile-Web-AppsNearly half of all internet traffic is funneled through a mobile device of some sort – either smart phones or tablets.

Google values pages that provide a mobile experience more highly than websites that don’t.

You can have your own coded, or use a WordPress plugin to create a mobile experience for your users.

Remember that adding mobile layouts also help to improve the usability of your website as well.

Conclusion

More than anything – on-page SEO is about due dilligence. It’s about providing the best experience for every user – including minority users on little-used browsers or specific mobile devices. It’s about going the extra mile to make sure that you are properly labeling all multimedia that you provide to your users.

On-site SEO is a broad term that refers to all of the topics talked about in this post. It is important to remember that on-page SEO is an ongoing job. Each new piece of content that you create needs to be properly optimized. Perfect on-page optimization is a huge job. If you already have hundreds of pages on your website – it could take weeks! Take your time, and slowly improve your on-page aspects for better long term results.

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